It’s all over but the ar­gu­ing in Ster­ling trial

The Standard Journal - - Sports -

LOS AN­GE­LES (AP) — Clos­ing ar­gu­ments are un­der­way in a trial to de­ter­mine whether the es­tranged wife of Don­ald Ster­ling can sell the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers to for­mer Mi­crosoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 bil­lion.

The ar­gu­ments Mon­day fol­low days of tes­ti­mony in­volv­ing Shelly Ster­ling’s re­moval of her hus­band from the fam­ily trust that owns the team af­ter doc­tors found him to be men­tally in­ca­pac­i­tated.

Don­ald Ster­ling’s lawyer has ar­gued that the re­moval was the re­sult of a con­spir­acy be­tween Shelly Ster­ling and NBA Com­mis­sioner Adam Sil­ver.

The com­mis­sioner banned Don­ald Ster­ling from the NBA for life af­ter racist re­marks to a girl­friend were recorded and pub­li­cized.

Only fi­nal ar­gu­ments and a rul­ing re­main in the trial to de­ter­mine whether Don­ald Ster­ling’s es­tranged wife can sell the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers to for­mer Mi­crosoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 bil­lion.

Lawyers for Ster­ling plan to ar­gue Mon­day that Shelly Ster­ling had no right to make the deal with Ballmer, even though Don­ald Ster­ling had given her writ­ten au­thor­ity to pur­sue a sale.

The at­tor­neys also say she tricked Don­ald Ster­ling into tak­ing men­tal ex­ams that found he had signs of the on­set of Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

That find­ing was suf­fi­cient for Ster­ling to be re­moved as a trus­tee of the Ster­ling Fam­ily Trust and to al­low Shelly Ster­ling to move for­ward with the sale of the team.

Later in the process, how­ever, Don­ald Ster­ling tried to stop the sale by dis­solv­ing the trust.

Lawyers for Shel­ley Ster­ling urged the judge to al­low the sale to go for­ward so a con­tract can be in place be­fore NBA own­ers meet on Aug. 15.

Lawyers spent the bet­ter part of a month ques­tion­ing wit­nesses at the trial, and on Mon­day will try to per­suade a judge to agree with their re­spec­tive po­si­tions.

Shelly Ster­ling’s lawyers along with an at­tor­ney for Ballmer filed a vo­lu­mi­nous le­gal brief cit­ing case law that they say proves that Don­ald Ster­ling did not have the right to dis­solve the trust that owned the Clip­pers.

They urged the judge to al­low the sale to oc­cur and re­ject any de­lay if ap­peals are filed.

“The trust has a golden bird in the hand,” the brief said. “A sale of the Clip­pers for $2 bil­lion is in­dis­putably a bo­nanza for the Ster­ling fam­ily. Don­ald’s stri­dent op­po­si­tion is mo­ti­vated by only self­ish con­sid­er­a­tions. This court has the power to make this prece­dentset­ting sale hap­pen.”

The 49-page doc­u­ment notes that if the sale is or­dered, it also could be de­layed by nu­mer­ous le­gal pro­vi­sions in the pro­bate code al­low­ing re­view of the rul­ing. The lawyers urged Su­pe­rior Court Judge Michael Le­vanas to stream­line the pro­ce­dure.

They cited 80-year-old Ster­ling’s vow on the wit­ness stand to con­tinue su­ing the NBA for the rest of his life and noted his threat to seek an in­junc­tion to stop the sale if the judge rules against him.

Don­ald Ster­ling was re­moved as a trus­tee af­ter his wife had him ex­am­ined by two doc­tors who found he lacked the men­tal ca­pac­ity to han­dle his own busi­ness af­fairs.

His lawyers filed a 70page brief that fo­cused heav­ily on that point. They said the doc­tors were hand-picked by lawyers for Shelly Ster­ling and did not do ad­e­quate ex­ams.

Don­ald Ster­ling main­tained he didn’t know his com­pe­tency as a trus­tee was be­ing eval­u­ated. His lawyers said in their brief that he ap­peared alert and able to ex­press him­self dur­ing his tes­ti­mony and showed no signs of be­ing in­com­pe­tent.

Still, Ster­ling spent much of his time on the wit­ness stand shout­ing at at­tor­neys for both sides, ex­press­ing his out­rage at the NBA and its com­mis­sioner for try­ing to oust him from the league over racist record­ings.

At one point he called Shelly Ster­ling a “pig” as she left the wit­ness stand.

Don­ald Ster­ling has filed another law­suit in state court against Shelly Ster­ling, NBA Com­mis­sioner Adam Sil­ver and the league.

Shelly Ster­ling’s po­ten­tially record- break­ing deal with Ballmer was struck af­ter Don­ald Ster­ling’s racist re­marks to a girl­friend were recorded and pub­li­cized. The NBA moved to oust him as team owner, fined him $2.5 mil­lion and banned him for life.

Shelly Ster­ling went to pro­bate court to en­sure that the sale she ne­go­ti­ated with Ballmer would go through.

In this Dec. 19, 2011 file photo, Los An­ge­les Clip­pers owner Don­ald Ster­ling watches the Clip­pers play the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers dur­ing an NBA pre­sea­son bas­ket­ball game in Los An­ge­les. The fu­ture of the Clip­pers is closer to de­ci­sion as tes­ti­mony re­sumes...

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